Detecting and Preventing the Leading Cause of Cancer

October is breast cancer awareness month. This reminds us to focus on women’s health. There are many topics within women’s health but let’s dive into breast cancer awareness and HPV.

Breast Cancer Awareness

Excluding skin cancer, the most common women’s cancer is breast cancer. Breast cancer accounts for 1 in 3 new female cancers each year. 

Women should start conducting self breast exams around age 20. It’s best to conduct these exams about the same time each month and usually a few days after your period ends. Once you’ve gone through menopause, try to conduct the exam on the same day of each month so that you can remember. The most common concerning findings in a self breast exam are a firm nodule that is fixed and irregular in shape. If you find a spot that is concerning, contact your doctor and set up an appointment. Your doctor will likely conduct an exam and may recommend you to have a mammogram.

Breast exams can often miss a lot of breast cancers therefore a mammogram is more accurate and should be done every 1 to 2 years starting around age 40. 

Mammograms are often uncomfortable and sometimes a bit painful, but there are several myths associated with these screenings. These myths are:

  • Mammograms hurt. Each patient has a different pain tolerance. That said, for many patients the mammogram is more uncomfortable than painful. The discomfort to minimal pain is only during the exam. You are not left with a persistent feeling after the screening.
  • Mammograms don’t help. This is a myth as they can detect cancer often before a nodule can be detected in a physical exam.
  • Mammograms cause cancer. A very low dose of radiation is used in a mammogram. A mammogram has never been linked to causing cancer. 

HPV screening

The human papillomavirus or HPV has become the number one cause of oropharyngeal cancer (head and neck cancer), accounting for about 70% of head and neck cancer. It has also been detected in 99.7% of cervical cancers. 

Typically HPV and cervical cancer screening starts around age 21 with pap smears. These screenings are conducted every 3-5 years. 

Prevention of HPV

Gardasil 9 is a vaccine to prevent to HPV.

There are ways to minimize the risk and exposure to HPV. It is sexually transmitted so therefore avoiding high risk sexual partners or high risk sexual activity. Gardasil 9 is a vaccine to protect against HPV. This vaccine has 9 different subtypes and protects against 2 of the subtypes (subtypes 16 and 18) that account for 70% of cervical cancers. 

Women Can Take Action to Protect Their Health

If you haven’t had a routine doctor’s appointment in the last 12 months, please schedule your appointment. Your family doctor or a gynecologist can conduct a breast exam and a pap smear.

If you or your family is needing a primary care physician, our team at Healthstar Physicians Premier Medical is here for your family. We’re Newport’s compassionate and experienced healthcare provider. We’re accepting new patients, and we accept most forms of health insurance. Contact us to find out more.

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